A series of short musings on the impact of presence within the world of rhythm.
What if we are not facilitating the drum circle?
What if, in fact, it is facilitating us?
Imagine for a moment if you will, that the drum circle is animate. That it is a living thing, moving in its own way and towards becoming the potential of the sum of its own constituent parts.
In terms of our approach to facilitating this living moving entity, we adhere to a number of widely accepted principals, attributed to the individual and collective components of the drum circle.
Let us first define those individual parts.
The human being that shows up to play an instrument in the circle. The instrument being played, be that a kind of drum, low tones, mid tones, high tones, hand drums, frame drums and stick drums alongside the percussion instruments covering the shaker, metal, and wooden tonal groups.
Each human participant brings with them an invisible quality to the proceedings. A story of coming to be there that is both present moment and past informed. This story sits below the waterline and what we see is perhaps just the tip of this iceberg. How we see that is filtered through our own submerged being, the unconscious. There is a deep degree of entanglement here before any drumming has even begun.
Each instrument in the circle, be it drum or percussion, also has its own creation story. Which tree, on which continent and with which animal skin? Which factory with which raw materials, steel, wood, chemicals and so on? Which human person involved in the making?
All the components for all of the making, both human and instrument, were Earth born. Dust. In the coming into being of an instrument there is an elemental element. Of course instruments are not animate right? In Guinea in West Africa, the Lenke tree is chosen for the shell of a djembe, because within its trunk there lives a mischievous spirit, which aligns with that of the drummer. Mytho-Poetic stories are also born in the dirt. Who is to say that the instrument in your hand, made from a core elemental beginning, is not somehow animate?
In his book Come of Age. The Case for Elderhood in a Time of Trouble, Stephen Jenkinson offers these thoughts on animism. “The world is alive. Alive means “of consequence.” It means “it pushes, it pulls.” It means the world is sentient.”
We might look at the drum circle in the same way. As animate. As sentient.
All of the factors of coming into being, for player and instrument, that precede our gathering to play, are in this particular moment in time and place, a unique thing. Consider for a moment everything that happened before to allow us all to be here now. How far back does that song go? Sitting here as we do in this moment of collective being, is a miracle that began eons ago. By logical extension, being alive is the same. A miracle.
That all of these stories collide in this moment owes itself to an ancestral (human and non-human) dance, of which we are an ‘in this moment’ iteration. A wave on the ocean of life. And we are yet to begin playing.
Now, consider for a second the rhythmical interaction of just one person with their own instrument in the beginnings of a circle. How many more possibilities exist in that time and space alone? How many more come into being with the offer to ‘make up your own’ that was the welcome to the circle they landed with.
These fledgling dialogues between player and played, human and instrument, are in themselves a dance of reciprocity, where each learns more about the other in the search for a place of balance, where the sound of the circle playing itself might come into being. Then it is no longer clear who is the player and who is the played. Of course this is only a potential. For one person.
Now imagine a hundred individuals on this journey together, all landing in the space with the same open explorative welcome and the new levels of interaction and dialogue that become possible. A collection of dialogues, a weaving of player and played with other players and played and a seeding of immense possibility. Multiple cross-fertilised dialogues birth a rhythmical mycelium.
All of this exists before the facilitation is required. All of this exists before you step in. Perhaps it is this rhythmical animism that brings the facilitator into being and most certainly it is the signpost that your ending is present here in the beginning. Rest assured; you will end here. The circle is already showing you how intelligent it is, how entangled it is and how it does not need you. It spent millions of years getting here without you.
Here in this place of knowing you are not required is an invitation to play as if you were. Here in the letting go of any idea of you being in control is a profound dance, a movement of true reciprocity where follower and followed merge. The circle calls you because it is the circle and it recognises you as a constituent part. No more. No less. Dance in balance. Dance as a part. Dance from the beginning knowing the end is nigh.
If you think to enter the circle with a perception that it needs you, that it is somehow about you, that you have a plan to save it, then prepare yourself for a powerful learning that it does not and it is not and you cannot.
The circle is a crucible of Paradox.
Facilitate without facilitating.
Be there without being there.
Follow the circle that is following you.
And all of this before you even step in.
So, before you do step in that circle.
Breathe. Recognise the miracle at play. Listen deeply. Accept it where it is. There is no right or wrong way for the circle to be. No good rhythm, bad rhythm story for you to bring in with you. No plan.
Just the circle.
In the circle.
When you are not.
Hey Chris, Thanks for meandering over to my other world. Glad you enjoyed these ponderings.
I was glad to have stumbled into your other world! Very cool. Your message spoke right to my heart. In ways it reflected my thoughts these days regarding the writing and existence of poetry (not to mention many other things). It’s also a pleasure to discover more about a person whose writing I enjoy and appreciate. All in all, t’was a fine excursion!